A prognostic indicator for tuberculosis
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Levels of natural killer cells in the bloodstream could offer a prognostic indicator of when asymptomatic tuberculosis is likely to transition to active disease.
A team that included scientists from the University of Cape Town sorted blood samples collected as part of several large cohort studies on tuberculosis from South Africa and China into their various immune components.
The researchers showed that people with latent tuberculosis infections have more circulating natural killer cells than uninfected individuals. Natural killer cell counts drop during active disease — and analyses of lung tissue revealed that people with more pulmonary inflammation have fewer natural killer cells in their bloodstream. Natural killer cell levels rise again, however, following successful therapy.
Blood tests for these immune cells could thus help clinicians track the progress of the disease as well as responses to treatment. The findings may also lead to new intervention strategies.
- Nature 560, 644–648 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0439-x